AFCON 2021: Mane stars as Senegal beat Burkina Faso to reach 2nd consecutive final

Sadio Mane scored to power Senegal into the AFCON final
Sadio Mane scored to power Senegal into the AFCON final

Senegal have gradually peaked at the 2021 Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON), and now they find themselves in the final after beating Burkina Faso on Wednesday.

The Lions of Teranga made a slow start to the tournament. That put their status as one of the favourites in doubt, especially after they struggled in the group stage. Aliou Cisse’s side won one game and drew their two other Group B games. Even more damning was the fact that they scored just a single goal during the group phase, a strike that came through a penalty.

However, Senegal have been a different beast in the knockouts. They’ve been scoring for fun, putting Burkina Faso to the sword during their semi-final clash.

Mane runs the show again

Cisse’s side scored one goal in three group games, but they’ve now found the back of the net eight times in the knockouts.

They beat Cape Verde 2-0 in the Round of 16, thrashed Equatorial Guinea 3-1 in the quarter-finals, and have now beaten Burkina Faso by the same scoreline in the last four.

At the forefront of Senegal’s upturn in fortunes, though, has been Sadio Mane. The Liverpool star has been immense for the Lions, contributing with both goals and assists.

Mane was on the scoresheet against Burkina Faso to take his goal tally in the tournament to three. He has also registered two assists for the Lions in their run to the final.

Senegal make second consecutive final

Senegal have been very unlucky in the AFCON in the past, having come close yet so far. They have lost two finals – 2002 and 2019 – but they have the chance to rewrite the script now.

Wednesday’s win over Burkina Faso means the Lions have now made it to back-to-back AFCON finals. They’ll now face the winner of the other semi-final game between hosts Cameroon and Egypt.

For Mane, though, it won’t matter whom they play, as the Liverpool winger insists Senegal are only focused on winning the trophy.

“We have no preference who we play. The only thing is that we must win it, that’s the question,” he said, as quoted by Goal.
“You can see how happy I am now, and it’s completely normal. I’m proud personally, and I’m also happy for myself, my teammates and all the country—we played well today. I know it wouldn’t be an easy game, but we expected this kind of match, and we won the game—that’s the most important thing,” continued Mane.

Come Sunday, Mane and co. will be playing in a second final in three years. It’s a travesty that a football national like Senegal have never won the AFCON, but the current crop of players have the opportunity to change that. Moreover, their current form suggests the trophy could be heading to Dakar.

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Edited by Bhargav
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